Making Great Relationships – A Key to Fulfilling Your Destiny

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Hi there, my name is Benjamin Conway and I am the pastor of Tree of Life Church, and the founder of the Tree of Life Network.  Every week I pen a Bible study for our elders to use in their homes to disciple and lead people into walking in their dreams.  This week I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to put the study online with the small group questions.  Hope you are blessed with this.  If this does help you, consider sharing it so others can also be inspired and challenged.

Poor relationships don’t destroy your walking in your dreams – your unwillingness or ignorance on how to deal with them does.  1 Cor. 15.33 says that “bad company corrupts good character.”  In terms of our dreams, there are people that help you dream big and people who don’t.  The bad crowd will corrupt you, and this word means to take away purity.  Your dreams are pure – they are holy and come from God and are just God’s voice to you.  Someone will come along and contaminate your dreams with one sentence: you can’t be called to that, you’ll never get over that, you can’t enjoy that, people from round here don’t achieve that.  Then suddenly all your mental energy is dealing with that 1 tiny thought rather than soaring with your dreams.

So how do we deal with this?  Obviously, we cannot lock ourselves away from the world.  Firstly, we must be very careful who we share our dreams with.

In Matthew 7.6 (read it), Jesus says don’t give the pure to the dogs.  Dogs in the culture of the Hebrews and Greeks represented impurity and a lack of cleanliness.  If you give a dog a bone, they will bite it.  If you give a dog your dream they will bite it.  Dogs are territorial, they are nice until you invade their space then they attack.  Having a big dream invades people’s space: they are psyching themselves up to enduring the next 30 years in the office, you are dreaming of launching your own company.  They are dreaming of surviving the world as a Christian, you are dreaming of going into nations and changing lives.  You invade their small territory when you share your big dream and you make them turn on you.

Jesus then says “don’t show your pearls off to swine”.  First dogs now pigs!  The problem with pigs and pearls is that pigs don’t know the value of anything.  They will trample your dreams because they don’t know the value of reading the Word, being in a strong church, living for God, ministering life, being the head and not the tail, confessing the Word.  So they will tear you apart.  Pigs only get what they can eat or roll in.  So they see a pearl they crush it – then they attack you for having something they see as worthless.

So – who should you share your dreams with?  I believe everyone needs a mentor (or two), a peer (or some) and a mentee (or a dozen).  These three healthy relationships will give you a place to share your dreams, meditate your dreams, be challenged, inspired and encouraged and walk in your dreams.  Throughout the Bible, people had good healthy relationships: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy, Peter and John, James and John, Jesus and Peter.  Businesses around the world are copying mentorship but the idea comes right from the Bible.

Your success in life – is about walking down a path.  Easiest way to get somewhere is to follow someone who has been there.  That is what a mentor does – they are walking in their dreams and there is a significant overlap with their dreams and yours.  They will support your dream.  Proverbs 13.20 says that by “walking with the wise, you become wise” – so make sure your mentors are proven to be wise:  They have success in front of them.  They have dealt with enemies, they have killed the dream killers, navigated the difficult path and now they can impart wisdom to you.

This person may or may not be a friend – friends love your past, mentors love your future.  Friends overlook weaknesses, mentors challenge weaknesses.  Not cheerleader, but the coach. 

Avoid the DOGS and PIGS and get someone who can see further than you in your life.  The more awesome the mentor, the more awesome you can end up.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD MENTOR?

1. A person with a good track record- A track record clearly shows us what the person has achieved or accomplished. This does not mean that they will have a perfect track record, meaning they will have experienced failures and made mistakes. But the overall track record should show that they have maintained their character and integrity while producing results in their field or industry. Look at the track record of a person to determine if they are worth being mentored by or not.

2. A person who stretches you- The person who mentors you should cause you to break out of your normal routines and your comfort zone. They should stretch you toward new levels of success. Proverbs 27: 17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” The sharpening of your skills and abilities only happen when you have the right people (mentors) around you. Take time to see if your potential mentor is seeking and willing to be stretched themselves. This will determine if they would be a person who will stretch you and challeng your comfort zone.

3. A person who inspires you- It’s imperative to find a mentor whose actions and attitude inspires you to be and do better. They should believe in you and have your best interest in mind. While at the same time being able to challenge (being firm or tough about) your actions, thoughts, and motives. They should know how to inspire you and discipline you, depending on the situation. Be careful about picking your mentor because they will either lift you to a new level or prevent you from reaching your maximum effectiveness and potential.

HOW DO I GET A MENTOR?

You have to pay the price to get into their presence.  The more you are around them the more you learn.  Share your heart with them – share your mistakes with them.  Tell them your dreams – and where you can’t see the future!  Be fiscally generous with them.  Follow their wisdom.    A good mentor is a shelter in the storms of life – someone who supports your dream, isn’t territorial and knows the value of things.

DON’T SHORT CIRCUIT THE MENTOR RELATIONSHIP – this is a key to absolutely fulfilling your dreams.  When you have a dream, and start stepping out into that dream, the mentor will appear!

Simple principles:

  1. Don’t hate your mentor!  People who have been where you want to go can help you – but you have to listen and apply their wisdom, you have to admit you don’t know it all.  It’s like medicine that stings – but it will make you better!
  2. Go at their pace – even if you can’t!  People who push you to do more than you think you can (remember last session – monotony and hard work) can annoy you.  You are happy being lazy and mediocre – and someone comes along and says you can do more, be more, achieve more.  If you envy someone’s success let that drive you to follow them.  Not drive you to hate them or ignore them.
  3. You learn by mentor or by mistake!  The arrogant learn through mistakes, the humble learn by mentor – they know more than me, so I will absolutely take their advice.
  4. Third parties will hate this relationship.  It will drive the dogs and pigs mad!  They will do whatever they can to destroy it.  “You going to THAT church?!” “You hanging around with that old guy again?”  “Who do you think you are?”
  5. A good mentor will never force you to learn – Jesus didn’t and you can’t … if you don’t ask the question, it will never be answered!

PEERS

Jesus sent people out in twos.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  So you have peers – people with a similar calling and similar stage of life.  I have a couple of pastors up north – who I just love.  They are my peers.  Not mentors – they haven’t been where I haven’t, but they have been where I have.

A mentor shows you the path, a peer helps you enjoy the journey!  It’s the missing ingredient in your journey!  Find some people who know what you and have been where you have been.

The mentor chews you out for missing something obvious.  It’s good to have someone else who has been chewed out the same.  It’s great to know you are not alone.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

PEERS have to be careful too:

  1. Ambition and competition can kill a peer relationship.  Certain conversations you just don’t have: for example, about how successful you are because they are not your competition.  Never correct a peer – correct a mentee, never correct a peer.  The relationship is more important – you need all the peers you can get.
  2. It needs to be a low-maintenance relationship.  That’s one where you don’t talk for weeks, months and years and you just pick off exactly where you left off.  It just doesn’t work otherwise.  It has to be a “No demand” relationship.  The mentor is high demand he tells you to march, the peer helps you stop and smell the flowers.  The mentor tells you how far to go, a good peer reminds you of how far you have come.
  3. It needs to be an agenda-less relationship.  One of the relationships I had that I considered a peer has just fizzled out – not through lack of time but through lack of respect.  They just kept asking to preach at the church.  Again and again and again and again.  That lack of respect of a peer killed the relationship – don’t use a friendship to try and get something.  People know.

Finally you need some MENTEES.  People you are helping grow.  You need to invest your life into people – yes, even you.  You know things other people do not know.   (If you want to do this in a church setting, we have a Leadership Course on Saturday 7th December at 9am-1am, let me know if you are interested).  You need to ask God for some wisdom as to who to invest in.  Some people you cannot ever help (people who don’t think they have a problem, people who think their problem is insurmountable, and people who think you are their problem).   Life isn’t about learning all you can – it’s also about serving and leading and learning.  So is church!  THERE IS A JOY IN SEEING SOMEONE ELSE STEP UP AND DO SOMETHING THEY HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, or ACHIEVE RESULTS THEY HAVE NEVER ACHIEVED BEFORE – if you haven’t got involved in that joy before then you are missing out!  And these relationships help you realize your dreams.  Helping other people walk in their dreams is the big step to seeing your own dreams come true.  This is one of the reasons it is so important to be in Living Church.

QUESTIONS

  1. How can bad company affect your ability to dream?
    1. What kind of people was Jesus talking about when he talked about dogs and pigs?
    2. Have you ever suffered because you ignored Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 7.6?
    3. Why do you need a mentor in your life?  What makes a good mentor?  Who are your mentors?
    4. Why do you need peers?  Who makes a good peer?  Who are your peers?
    5. Why do you need mentees?  What makes good mentees?  Who are your mentees?
    6. Do you want us to agree with you for wisdom and boldness to find and cultivate healthy relationships?

 

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Mentors and Mentoring

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I am going to take a tiny reprieve from our current series on The Reality Gap (parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here respectively, and next week we will discuss part 3 – The Pursuit of Excellence) and talk a little bit today on mentoring.  I haven’t really gathered my thoughts, so this may come across as a little stream-of-consciousness and a little idiosyncratic.  That may suit some of you and may not suit others – it doesn’t suit me, I prefer to be prepared, but I wanted to get a post on this blog this week and this is a topic a lot of people have been asking about lately.

The first thing you need to know is that being mentored is a good thing.  An exceptionally good thing.  A good mentor can be worth years of experience.  George Hill says it like this: “the best way to get somewhere is to find someone who has been there and follow them”, and I have definitely found that to be true in my life.

I know some people don’t like the word mentor, some people find it too business-like, too secular or whatever.  If that’s you, just substitute the word “discipler”.  The fact is I like the word mentor – it gives the right connotation of someone who is helping you with a task.

So the first thing you need to know is that God has mentors for you!  God has put leaders into the body of Christ to lead.  That sounds so simple, but people misunderstand it.  Some people want to be part of a church for example, and not get involved with the church’s programmes and structure, and try to create their own programmes or build their own little structure.  Other people think they know better than anyone else, when the fruit of their life shows that they don’t.

God has ordained leaders to lead us forward.  People who have done what we dream of doing, who can through their experience and wisdom take us forward.

If you don’t know the names of your mentors, your leaders, your disciplers: the people who have gone before and are helping you through their wisdom and experience, then you have a problem.  I guarantee progress made in your life is slow and an uphill struggle.  You can keep going like that if you want, but there is a better way.  The way of God-ordained mentors.

You will never have above average levels of wisdom if you fail to recognize the leaders that God wants to place in your life.  That is a fact!  You will never rise above mediocrity if you can’t name your mentors.  You need mentors.

Now the world and its dog will want to be your mentor – especially if you are young, passionate and starting to see success.  The denomination that turned me down twice suddenly knocked on my doors when we had about 60+ people on a Sunday… but be WARY, many people are only interested in what they can syphon from you, and basically in controlling you and sharing your success, they don’t want to invest in you.

Remember a mentor is there to lead you somewhere you haven’t been.  So the first step is to realize: if they haven’t been where you want to go, they are not your mentor!

This sounds so obvious, but I have seen pastors join up with networks that don’t do anything.  A pastor of a church of 300 who was given that church at 350 and lost 50 people is not the same as a pastor of a church of 150 who has built that church from nothing.  They will not have the wisdom you need to take your church from 150 to 300, but if you are swayed by size alone, you might take that person as a mentor and then wonder why your church now has 100 people – because all they know is how to lose people!

If you are 36 years old, people in their late 50s will want to be your mentor – because they have more “experience” than you.  If they haven’t done what you have done, they haven’t got the experience you have.  It’s that simple.  Paul told TImothy when telling him to tell the elders what to teach and ensure the elders are living right not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth.  Sometimes elders think they have more experience than the pastor, and the pastor can think the same because the elders have more years.  No!  Years are not experience, and an elder is not going to give you the wisdom to get where you need to go because they have never been there.

A guy once came to me and asked for a paid job at Tree of Life Church.  I had met him once before.  I said “as what?” He said “as your coach.”  He was 60-something, I was 30-something so he assumed that he knew more than I did.  Turns out that 10 years previous he planted a church and in ten years took it to 30.  Now I am not knocking that, that’s an achievement.  That’s 30 people with a shepherd, moving forward.  But in the last 3 years we have gone from 11 to 150+.  The problems you find in a church of 30 are not the same problems you find in a church of 30.  In the same way parenting teens is not parenting toddlers!  He had zero experience of what I was and am facing, and yet wanted money to pass that zero experience onto me.  I declined.

Another couple approached me and offered to pastor me and give me advice about how to properly plant churches.  So far we have planted 3 churches, all growing, all healthy. Not one of them is perfect, but they are great places to be.  I asked this couple how many churches they had planted.  Zero.  Again, I am not going to waste time listening to zero experience.

You need mentors who have been where you are and who have been where you want to go.  For me, the call of God on my life has always been to plant churches founded on the complete work of Christ and to build disciples who dream and dream big.  So, I have had to find people who have planted successful, healthy churches to find out how they did it.  To learn from a mentor is to avoid learning from mistakes.

When I find someone who has planted from nothing a successful, healthy church my eyes are on them.  When I find that the church is built on the complete work, I follow them.  When I find that the person is raising leaders with big dreams, I know that’s someone I want to emulate.  Not become – I am me and he is he, but I know they have gone the path before and know stuff I don’t know.

Now this is the important bit.  Although God has prepared mentors for you, and although many people will try and mentor you and have never been where you want to go, when you meet a true mentor (and this is the key:) you have to pursue them.  You have to chase them, they will never chase you.

Yesterday I had lunch with one of my mentors (I have three – that’s a good, healthy number, too many cooks spoil the broth and all that, and you can’t purse much more than that.  One or two is fine as well, three is just because I am greedy).  I drove well over an hour to him for a meeting that lasted an hour and a half, then drove back.  I contacted him and arranged the meeting.  I asked for his time.  I treat his time as sacred.  His name is Robert Maasbach, and I first met him at a healing meeting where my son was healed.  I since have been to his church many times, just sitting at the back getting refreshed and have sat at his feet learning from him again and again.  I invited him to preach for me one time, we had dinner and I found this stream of wisdom which I just tapped into.  Since then I try and meet him once a month.

I treat his advice as sacred too.  Every idea he has given me I have implemented and everyone has brought success and growth to the church.  That’s because he pastors a church that is pushing 1000 people on a Sunday and knows what he is talking about.  The advice he gave me yesterday has helped me re-frame an issue we have been dealing with for a few months.  I thought it was a minor issue, but he told me no – in three years time this will explode in your face.  So I have made plans to deal with it and deal with it quickly and firmly.  He helped me strategize in dealing with that as well.  I have confidence in his wisdom because by their fruits you will know them.  I know that yesterday afternoon in one hour with my mentor has saved me thousands of headaches.

Some mentors are lifelong mentors, like Robert Maasbach.  Others are for a season or for a particular issue.  Recently I had the joy of driving George and Hazel Hill around when they were in the UK.  They have planted thousands of churches.  So I asked them lots and lots of questions.  By serving them, I had earned time with them, so I used it to pull on the wisdom in them.  

They run a network of churches with several churches in the UK.  To be honest, I thought I would have to fight for their time with all the pastors in their UK network, but they didn’t volunteer, didn’t pursue, so I did and I got to spend time with them.  Now they started in Canada and started planting churches on the other sides of their city from their main church – exactly where we are now.  So I found out from their mistakes what will and won’t work, and just driving them from one airport to another has saved me hours of agony over a difficult decision because George Hill clarified my priorities and imparted his wisdom to me.

I drove them up to a pastor’s conference, and they gave me some advice on creating a special service to attract people.  I took their ideas, and started crafting.  When George Hill was preaching at the conference he mentioned the conversation and I mentioned I have started planning it already.  That impressed him – you see people with a great deal of wisdom and experience know what works and what doesn’t.  What grieves their hearts is dispensing wisdom and seeing it ignored, then people walking into hurt and difficulties.  What lifts their heart is seeing lives changed, the kingdom advancing because their wisdom is received.  

Now I am in a position of favour, and now I am receiving more wisdom from them.  But I still have to pursue them.  That’s the key here – you have to chase your mentors.  You have to value their wisdom.  You have to make some life adjustments to ensure you get the time to draw from their wisdom.

Making initial contact can sometimes be the hardest step.  The thing that keeps more people away from their dreams and success is a failure to take the first step.  So, don’t delay take the first step today.

Write an email to someone who has done what you want to do.  Ask them for some wisdom.  Go to a conference where someone you want to emulate is going to be.  Humble yourself a little and admit there is more to life than what you know and ask the Lord to show you who is going to help you take the next step.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Benjamin Conway

Lead Pastor, Tree of Life Network